Archive for: September, 2007

Six Apart encourages your philanthropy with gift certificates.

Sep 29 2007 Published by under Philanthropy

Mike Dunford just passed on most excellent news: Six Apart is giving away $30 gift certificates for my favorite philanthropic organization, DonorsChoose. Here are the details:

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Friday Sprog Blogging: circuitry.

Sep 28 2007 Published by under Kids and science


Have you ever bought a present for a loved one where you weren't totally sure that he or she would be enthusiastic about the present, but you figured that you could always keep it if it was a dud?
I have this hunch that a good number of "educational" gifts that parents get for kids fit in this category.
I have a further hypothesis that the gifts that the parents are really secretly hoping that they will get to keep for their very own are the gifts their kids end up liking the most.
A recent data point in support of that hypothesis: The Snap Circuits set we got for the elder Free-Ride offspring's birthday this past summer.

After the Free-Ride offspring returned from fishing with Uncle Fishy last Sunday, we clamored around the Snap Circuits and took note of some concepts that are not obvious to kids who spend most of their time focused on macroscopic phenomenon.

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Memo to the FSU Athletics Department: 'learning' and 'cheating' are not synonyms.

Somehow, the Florida State University Office of Athletic Academic Support Services had in its employ a "Learning Specialist" who seemed to think it was part of his or her job to help a bunch of student athletes cheat.
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel:

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Do you self-report lab mishaps?

This is a question that occurred to me earlier this month when I had occasion to observe an undergraduate laboratory course: If something goes wrong in the lab, do you tell the lab instructor? The "something wrong" could range from breaking a piece of glassware, to getting a stick with a syringe (of non-biohazardous material), to getting a stick with a syringe (of biohazardous or radioactive material), to spilling a nasty reagent. Of course, it could include other mishaps not enumerated here.
I'm not as interested in hearing when students should tell the lab instructor about a mishap, but rather in the conditions in which you would bring the lab instructor into the information loop.

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Does specifying one's guilty pleasures require an analysis of 'guilt' and 'pleasure'?

Sean, Chad, and Steinn ponder the lameness of academics in self-reporting their "guilty pleasures".
Quoth Sean:

I immediately felt bad that I couldn't come up with a more salacious, or at least quirky and eccentric, guilty pleasure. I chose going to Vegas, a very unique and daring pastime that is shared by millions of people every week. I was sure that, once the roundup appeared in print, I would be shown up as the milquetoast I truly am, my pretensions to edgy hipness once again roundly flogged for the enjoyment of others.
But no. As it turns out, compared to my colleagues I'm some sort of cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Caligula. Get a load of some of these guilty pleasures: Sudoku. Riding a bike. And then, without hint of sarcasm: Landscape restoration. Gee, I hope your Mom never finds out about that.

Chad kind of blames technology:

Actually, it's a little tough to come up with anything that really works, in this age of blogging. After all, a guilty pleasure is something you don't want other people to know that you enjoy, and a lot of the really good candidates in my life are here for the whole world to see.

Steinn rejects the original question:

I'm not into guilt, and there are real academic pleasures; emotional states that come with the job.
We should revel in them.

As someone with a professional interest in ethics, and -- perhaps more importantly -- raised by two parochial school graduates, I know a little something about guilt. Let's see if I can make Sean feel a little less like Caligula.

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A postcard from academe: my tenure dossier.

Sep 25 2007 Published by under Academia, Passing thoughts, Personal

You may have noticed a lull in my postings here. I've been laboring to put the finishing touches on my dossier for my sixth year review. This dossier is the document on which a succession of committees will be basing their decisions as to whether San José State University will be tenuring me and promoting me to associate professor, or whether they will be thanking me for my service and sending me on my way.
It's an awful lot of responsibility to put in the clutches of a three-ring binder, don't you think?

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A little ditty about a fertile object of scientific study.

While discussing poop with a bunch of life scientists -- in particular, we were discussing its utility in a wide variety of research projects -- one of the scientists at the table related a rousing cheer which I simply must share:

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Friday Sprog Blogging: random bullets to start off the school year.

Sep 21 2007 Published by under Kids and science

The Free-Ride offspring are 2.5 weeks into the new school year and still bubbling with enthusiasm. This week they share some of what they've been thinking about, and some hopes for the school year as it unfolds.
* Material you saw when the first kid encountered it is still there for the next kid to learn.
To be precise, younger offspring encountered lessons this week on phases of matter that seemed so two years ago. And indeed, younger offspring has vague recollections of learning about matter in kindergarten, not to mention discussing it at the dinner table. Still, not every first grader has an elder sibling from whom to leech knowledge, and recognizing the phases of matter and their properties is an important building block. If only they could start exploring the question of why the phases of matter have the properties they do.

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Facebook needs to hire the ghost of Potter Stewart.

Tara notices that social networking site Facebook has decided, in the enforcement of their policy against "nudity, drug use, or other obscene content", that pictures of breastfeeding babies are obscene. As such, the Facebook obscenity squad had been removing them -- and has deleted the account of at least one mom who had posted such pictures.
Break out the Ouija board and get late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who famously claimed that he couldn't define obscenity, but he knew it when he saw it. As far as the legal definition goes, "obscene" seems to be roughly equivalent to "pornographic". And I'm pretty confident that Justice Stewart, upon seeing a picture of a breastfeeding baby, would recognize that it was not pornographic. (If you are aroused beyond "normal lust" by such pictures, that may just be you, not the pictures themselves.)
So, what's Facebook's problem?

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Ask a Pirate Blogger.

Avast, ye bloglubbers!
We be starin' down the crow's nest at another International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a holiday marked in these seas by the seizin' o' this bucket by the Dread Pirate Free-Ride. Aye, it happened last year, and by the beak o' the squid guardin' Davy Jones' locker*, it's happened again.
What's that ye be sayin'? Pirates didn't really be sayin' "Arrrr"? Shove some hardtack in that mouth or I be usin' it to scrape the barnacles off this bucket!

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